Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ilulissat Residents

I found the Greenlandic people to be warm, welcoming and quick to smile.  Also got the sense that when you live in such an extreme place where plans may have to change often, you learn to just go with the flow and the vibe coming from the locals reflected that.  Good for someone like me to witness as I tend to like to control stuff...

You can tell who the tourists were by who needed to wear sunglasses to shield against the wind and brightness.  And by who still needed the heavier coats and clothing during the warm spell. Parents were teaching their toddlers, dressed in full snow suits, how to ride bicycles (training wheels) on the ice laden sides of the roads.  People had windows open at their homes.  You could hear teenagers belting out the tunes.  Everyone was taking advantage of the unseasonable weather.

Normally I would make an effort to speak the local language but even with my cheat sheet, I could not remember or get out of my mouth quickly enough much other than hello in Greenlandic.  And you can never tell if someone is going to speak to you in Danish (mine was non existent).  Kids are brought up with both languages. 

As my hotel room faced Disko Bay, each morning at around 8:15 - 8:30 am -- "Rush Hour", I would see dozens of small older looking aluminum fishing boats zoom across the bay towards the Icefjord.  Apparently fish like to gather around and under the ice.  The fishermen knew the dangers of being so close to icebergs as well as the signs when one was going to calve.

It's not an easy life there.  This is still a culture of the One Man, One Boat for fishing and seal hunting with the goal of feeding their families.  You can tell when a fish was caught by the number of sea birds that would suddenly come out of nowhere to follow the boats back into the harbour.

Interesting as well, I did not see one PFD on the fishermen and when I spent time on the water, there were no talks about safety nor did any of us wear one either.  Maybe it was because we wouldn't  have much hope anyways should we fall into such cold water. 

You could hear a pin drop during the moments when one of our captains decided to plow through some solid flats of ice to get to the other side...

The Icefjord changes constantly.  Some of the giant icebergs extend 1400 m below what towered over us.  We see only 1/7 - 1/10th of its total size.  And the ice field extends about 67 km upstream from the mouth of the fjord, solidly packed with ice and icebergs.   The clarity of the ice, the absence or presence of bubbles all help to indicate its age. 

On our last afternoon out on the water, a small chunk of ice was captured so we could all enjoy a Martini on the rocks, out in the middle of the Icefjord, surrounded by silence and the setting sun.  An artificial moment amongst the harsh reality all around us, I realized, but for the half an hour we were anchored, it felt peaceful.

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